There may be nearly six hundred acres on the Wiston Estate but since 2006 all the interest has been focused on a certain sixteen. This special area of the estate sits deep in the heart of the Sussex countryside, and is now producing some of the most exciting sparkling wine in the UK today.
We follow the direction of a small wooden sign with ‘Wiston Wines’ painted on it. We then pass by a number of old farm buildings before the vineyard comes into view. It is a scene straight out of the South of France, vines stretching out as far as the eye can see, all set perfectly in a peaceful vineyard surrounded by nature. This area is ideal for growing grapes suited to sparkling wine, as the climate and soil are almost identical to that of the Champagne region. The other major advantage is, the Goring family has farmed this land since 1783 and knows exactly how to get the best out of the area.
We meet Kirsty Goring, who now helps run the Estate with her husband Richard, she explains, “This plot of land, now growing pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay may not have existed if it wasn’t for the persistence of my mother-in-law Pip Goring.” Pip grew up in the wine regions of South Africa and only moved to England after her marriage to Harry Goring. She longed to see if the grapes that surrounded her as a child could survive the British climate. After years of gentle persuasion, the couple decided to see if it was possible. They didn’t have a sound business plan or a big strategy but they did have the passion and drive to make it a reality. So back in 2006 they planted sixteen acres of champagne variety grapes. They knew they had the geography on their side and that being a little further north than Champagne afforded a slightly longer growing period to mature the grapes.
It’s brilliant to see the Estate thriving and because we’re carefully looking after the land, the wildlife is flourishing as well, it feels like the winery has brought a new lease of life to the area.”
The chosen area was small and perfect for growing, it’s south facing, protected by woodland at one end and in close proximity to the sea for protection from frost. Kirsty says, “Once Pip and Harry were confident they had the best area to grow, they then needed to find the best wine maker.”
It was late 2006 when Dermot Sugrue came to Wiston. We head to the old turkey farm to meet him. He is busy checking sugar content, temperature, adding yeast, all the while talking to us enthusiastically as he rushes around creating the perfect wine. Dermot left another English wine producer, Nyetimber to join Wiston. He says, “The potential here was great and the idea of helping build something from the ground up was far too exciting to say no.”
The team are now producing one of the UK’s best sparkling wines and have picked up a host of gold awards. They want to keep building on the success, grow more grapes and produce more wine. There are also plans to open up the estate to more people with the new visitor centre coming soon. Kirsty says, “It’s brilliant to see the Estate thriving and because we’re carefully looking after the land, the wildlife is flourishing as well, it feels like the winery has brought a new lease of life to the area.” The management of this great Estate has been passed down from Pip and Harry to Richard and Kirsty who are are incredibly excited to be developing a relatively new venture on an estate steeped in history.